The beauty of Google Street View is that it can instantly transport you to faraway places, giving you an on-the-ground perspective. Scientists in Australia have partnered with Google to produce stunning 360-degree panoramas of some of the world’s most impressive coral reefs. As part of the Catlin Seaview Survey, those scientists are now studying the underwater images to gain a better understanding of how climate change is affecting sensitive reef ecosystems.

Google, Underwater Street View, Google Street View, Great Barrier Reef, coral reef

In its partnership with Google, the team of scientists plans to use underwater images to develop a sophisticated system of monitoring the health of coral reefs. As part of the Catlin Seaview Survey, the team will use image recognition technology — the same technology that enables computers to recognize people’s faces — to determine which creatures are living in a particular reef system. “This new technology allows us to rapidly understand the distribution and abundance of key organisms such as corals at large scales,” Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg of the University of Queensland told Science Daily. “Our expeditions in 2012 to the Great Barrier Reef recorded over 150 km of reef-scape using these methods.”

For the casual observer, perhaps the best thing to come from this project is that anyone with an internet connection can now explore coral reefs in places like Apo Island, Molokini Atoll, and Hanauma Bay with just the click of a mouse. But the scientists are also hoping that the online community will also help them by raising awareness and providing more data. “We are planning to involve online citizens to help us count a wide range of organisms that appear in the high-definition images,” explained Hoegh-Guldberg. “Anyone with access to a computer will be able to help us log creatures such as stingrays, turtles, fish and Crown of Thorns starfish.” The team has already completed its work on the Great Barrier Reef, and it has moved on to the Caribbean.

+ Catlin Seaview Survey

via Science Daily